Deborah Vance lives in a Las Vegas mansion about the size of Versailles with a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers. But the veteran comedian, played so artfully by Jean Smart in the HBO Max series, isn’t Liberace. She loves antiques and excess, but it’s all tasteful in her very Deborah Vance way, with some shattering contemporary art pieces.
When it came to imagining the comic book mansion, head decorator Jon Carlos leaned into the kind of glamorous luxury seen in interiors by LA-based Atelier AM and the massive designs of the architect William Hablinski for inspiration, rather by researching the homes of real celebrities.
The classic exterior was shot in a house under construction in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, while the interiors were filmed on Paramount sound stages. Carlos imagined Deborah living in the lavish Enclave development in Las Vegas, where celebrities like Steve Wynn and David Copperfield have homes.
Conversations with show creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky also helped add items such as a soda fountain in the kitchen, the salt and pepper collection, and animal prints to the kitchen. image of the stand-up comedian from Las Vegas. .
From contrasting colors to sharp angles, Carlos breaks down the ideas behind Vance’s house.
The inspiration behind Deborah Vance’s home
“Very early on in the process, we talked about the tone in terms of depicting the environments and how that would complement the character.
“Right from the start it was important for me to make sure that it felt and supported the character development of the dramatic aspects rather than the comedy. We didn’t want it to look like a traditional half hour comedy, there had to be a sense of hyperrealism and gravity in the sets.
“We didn’t want these things to be so hyperbolic or overdone that it would rob you of your ability to relate to this character as a human on an individual level.
“I think what’s really amazing about this show is that there are so many different characters that the demographics that she can talk to, and that she can relate to, is amazing. So making these environments can both alienate but relate at the same time, and the second would move towards such an exaggerated approach that it becomes comical and in itself – except for a few moments that we specifically wanted to do comedy – was really important for us to shape that.
Deborah’s living room
“I knew from the get-go that I wanted to have – in the layout of the mansion itself – this style of architecture called enfilade, which means all the doors are aligned and no matter which axis you are on, you can still look down from room to room and see a frame within a frame.
“Deborah’s entire life is captured and each room is segmented, the living room being the vortex. From the living room you can see Marcus’ office, you can see his office, you can see the dining room, and you can see the front door diagonally.
“It was also about mixing antiquity with contemporary and modern pieces – especially in art contrasting with the style of the sofa or chairs.
“Our set designer, Ellen Reede Dorros, added touches: the zebra ottomans under the beautiful rococo table that was under a beautiful contemporary painting that was the same color palette as the wall.
“The color palette of pink was new to me, I never really did a show with pink. It was something that came from Paul, Lucia and Jen. It was about trying to find the right rose. I went through a dozen samples. We had to tint it to get the perfect two-tone pink.
“You can notice that the wall is two-tone, the interior panels are a lighter pink, and the exterior panels are all a slightly darker pink.
“There were the sage curtains that were attached to the sofa, but there was a color contrast to the purple, and there was always a color contrast.
“We had a yin-yang in the balance of the whole, which was emblematic of the yin and yang between Deborah and Ava.”
The house in relation to the personality of Deborah
“The only line I read when I saw the script was the comment about it looking like a cheesecake factory. I wasn’t sure if I should kiss it or be scared by that comment.
“How I interpreted it, maybe it was a slightly generational comment. Ava not understanding the history of Deborah’s palace and that would be off-putting for someone in LA who doesn’t necessarily have the same education or background in antiques and art could make that comment.
“We had to find that balance where he leaned a bit over the Cheesecake Factory. We wanted to find a story of where Deborah likely hired an architectural firm and spent 10 years designing and building this mansion. Halfway through, she fired everyone and went to Europe herself. She did her shopping in Paris flea markets and galleries all over the world.
“We got this joke about how Deborah created her place – that she would hire the best to do it, and they still weren’t good enough.
“Another contrast that we tried to put in place was when you look at its living room or the lobby, or these are its public spaces. This is where she is the most showy. There were animal prints everywhere too, and that was more because of her ferocity where she brings you into the house and lets you see the hard side. There is a piece of armor in the entrance hall.
“As you step into her private spaces, we’ve brought more of her softness. There was nothing hard about the sofas – everything was soft and enveloping. I think the scripts called for no less than a dozen pillows on his bed.
“I kind of imagined the house as a flower, like a rose. The ground floor is thorny and the upstairs is where the petals start to unfold and this is where you can see the real Deborah.
“The kitchen is huge. This is the size of most people’s homes. The soda maker was a scripted item that Paul, Jen, and Lucia wanted. It was the perfect amount of 1980s Deborah.
“She never lets go of her past and you saw her with her soda maker, and you saw her with the microwave in her office. The boldness of something so commercial and benign yet fully equipped in this beautiful built-in cabinet for the soda maker. Then there were the Co2 tanks underneath that she effortlessly lifts up like a heroine and changes.
“You see her drinking Diet Coke the whole show – she’s one of our schticks.
“The salt and pepper display case, backlit across the kitchen from the kitchen, which Adam Bricker, the cinematographer captured, with its perfect position, was one of my favorites from the series.
Kathleen Felix Hager, the costume designer, had perfectly matched Deborah in a teal dress to match the elements inside the case. There was constant collaboration and discussion about the dominant colors and their emphasis. We would work to complement and balance the colors all together.
“[In the pilot], the kitchen is the first room where we see her interior space and she sits alone on this giant island. It was a room that was purposely gray and cool, with hard marble surfaces, so it felt like a prisoner in that cold place.
“Ellen found most of these items. The salt and pepper shakers were scripted, and she had fun, from antique shops to eBay, finding a range of shakers. The accessory master made the hero’s pepperbox.
“In the hallway leading to the living room, she had a beautiful collection of antique busts on consoles that I have always found so beautiful in contrast to the contemporary art that was just above them.
“Ellen had these two amazing porcelain Dalmatians that she put in Deborah’s office. It reminded me of Cruella de Vil. And it was perfect. We can say that they were bought in the 80s.